Report reinforces the need for detainees' rights in custody to be upheld at all times
Transform Justice, the National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN), and Fair Trials have published a report, ‘Not Remotely Fair?’ which reinforces the necessity to ensure a detainee’s rights in police custody are upheld at all times, despite the challenges arising from Covid-19.
In response to the report APCC deputy lead for Mental Health and Custody, and chair of the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA), PCC Martyn Underhill said:
“It was concerning to read this report on the Covid-19 response to police interviews.
"Like other emergency services, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, policing has had to be agile in its response to the virus. As the virus spread, steps were taken to improve the safety of all who entered the custody environment, including detainees. This involved the temporary adoption of a Joint Interim Interview Protocol (JIIP), agreed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Crown Prosecution Service and others as a way of reducing infection by limiting the number of people entering custody.”
Under the Joint Protocol, detainees should be provided with the option of receiving legal advice remotely, with a requirement for policing to capture their consent.
Mr Underhill said: “Unfortunately, adherence to the JIIP has varied and today's assessment is consistent with reports made by Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) to PCCs and ICVA, describing how detainees had not been given a chance to provide informed consent to agree to remote legal advice. ICVs also expressed concern that detainees and appropriate adults were often presented with a situation whereby remote legal advice became the default.
“As a result of ICV reports and today's findings, I understand the NPCC and other signatories to the JIIP have developed new guidance that clearly sets out the correct process to obtain detainee consent. In addition, the NPCC has called for children and vulnerable adults to be removed from the Protocol meaning they will always receive legal advice in person. I support this approach and continue to urge ICVs to monitor this situation and report concerns to PCCs. As we move forward, I will work alongside the NPCC to oversee the effective implementation of the new guidance and eventual phase out of the JIIP.”
ICVA Chief Executive Katie Kempen who has worked with ICVs throughout the pandemic also commented on the report "For some detainees, facing very serious charges, face to face advice is essential if they are to properly understand what is happening to them and make informed decisions about matters that can have life-long consequences. In a society that values fairness and the rule of law, it is essential that solicitors return to providing face to face advice in Covid secure police custody suites when the detainee says this is what they need."